Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said hospital was safe days before stopping its opening

© Sandy McCookJeane Freeman
Jeane Freeman

Scotland’s Health Secretary gave assurances that a £150 million children’s hospital was up to standard six days before she blocked its opening.

Health chiefs had also promised the 233-bed hospital in Edinburgh met the required standards in the run-up to the planned opening this week.

Patients, staff and services at NHS Lothian’s Royal Hospital for Sick Children were expected to transfer to the new Royal Hospital for Children and Young People on Tuesday.

Jeane Freeman postponed the move last Wednesday after final checks revealed the critical care department’s ventilation system did not meet national standards.

It should have been capable of renewing the air of the room not fewer than 10 times an hour.

The extra running costs of keeping the old hospital open will cost £250,000 per month.

The Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow has also experienced problems with ventilation systems that have been linked to infection outbreaks.

Two people died last year after contracting a fungal infection that can be linked to pigeon droppings.

On June 27, Miss Freeman told MSPs at the Scottish Parliament that NHS boards had been tasked with ensuring they had proper assurances “that the immediate lessons we had learned from the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in relation to air ventilation, water supply and the use of sinks had been applied in the design and construction of those new buildings”.

She told Holyrood: “We have that assurance. NHS Lothian did not take ownership of the site until it was absolutely assured that those steps had been taken.”

But, just six days later, she stepped in to halt the move to the new children’s hospital over its ventilation system.

Scottish Conservative health spokesmen Miles Briggs said: “The public are sick to their back teeth of this kind of disaster.

“I’ve written to NHS Lothian repeatedly about my concerns that we didn’t have a repeat of the Queen Elizabeth fiasco and, time after time, I was assured the new building was up to standard.

“We can now see that once again, despite all the assurances, there were the same issues that affected the Glasgow hospital.”

In March, NHS Lothian deputy chief executive Jim Crombie wrote in a letter to Mr Briggs that all the required specifications and inspections were being complied with.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Following the issues at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital earlier this year the Scottish Government asked all boards for assurances that their sites met the expected national standards

“The specific issue that led to the Health Secretary’s decision to delay the opening of the hospital was only identified during those final safety checks, as notified by NHS Lothian.”

NHS Lothian chief executive Tim Davison said: “A programme of work is under way to determine the technical solution to resolve the ventilation issue affecting the bedrooms in critical care.”

He added: “NHS Lothian first became aware of the ventilation issue last week following final commissioning checks by the Independent Assessor, IOM, engaged by NHS Lothian.”